Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety, said sprouts present a unique challenge because pathogens -- Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. -- might reside inside of the seeds where they cannot be reached by currently available processing interventions.
"After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts," Pruett said in a statement. "Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against food-borne illness. Out of an abundance of caution, the Kroger Family of Stores will no longer sell fresh sprouts or procure other foods that are produced on the same equipment as sprouts."
Pruett said the company was open to revisiting this policy when new technologies and practices show that farmers can consistently produce sprout seeds that do not internalize pathogens, and when sprout processing environments can be enhanced for safety and cleanliness.
Deliveries of sprouts into Kroger distribution centers and stores was discontinued Monday.